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The rise of disposable fashion


garbage bins, rubbish, trash, recycle“Fashion to me has become very disposable; I wanted to get back to craft, to clothes that could last.” Vera Wang

Fast fashion is now part of our contemporary vernacular. It begs the question, what are we doing to this next generation of fashion savvy consumers?

In this world of instant gratification; fast or ‘disposable’ fashion is on the rise… and rise, with Zara, Topshop, and H&M leading the way.

It is not a necessarily new thing. Indeed, the term ‘Primark effect’ was coined as far back as 2008, referring to the increasing quantities of discarded clothing being sent to landfill sites in the UK.

In fact, it was recently reported by Britain’s Environment Select Committee that the weight of textile waste has jump from seven per cent to 30 per cent in just five years, which means disposable fashion is no longer an industry term – it is actually very real.

These global push to posh brands are fast fashion emporiums searching floor space 20 times bigger than the average specialty fashion retailer. Brands such as H&M are reported as being around 20 per cent to 30 per cent cheaper than their Australian counterparts.

The axiom that we grew up with that quality has an inverse relationship to price is being contested, as millions of dollars are being spent on disposable fashion.

We are, by all intents and purposes, rewiring the next generation of consumers to spend and dispose of fashion quicker than ever before.

These fast fashion meccas are not about inventory, but more about pieces and ranges that are manufactured quickly to express catwalk trends. They try to look more expensive than they are, so the psychology is all about the push to posh – the aspiration of a high end brand without the price tag. The concept of fashion is being re-engineered.

Let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum. Iconic investment pieces, luxury items, the ones that are coveted and copied.

While you might think these brands are on the decline as fast as disposable fashion rises, this is not the case. Why? Because these are the true fashion brands.

They spend more time, and money growing their reputation and brand to make sure consumers invest.

These are pieces that are handed down to next generations. Just take a look at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong where the retail floor space is $45,000 per sqm, or Dubai Mall with its 440,000sqm Fashion Avenue, home to the largest collection of fashion brands under one roof on the planet.

We equally know that luxury retail, and in particular, fashion and its related products, are experiencing booming global growth. Companies such as Burberry and Louis Vuitton are all reporting double digit growth in revenue with comparable EBIT results. Price is not their domain per se rather, it is world class quality of garment and accessories.

So what of our traditional retailers in fashion? Extolling the adage that quality and price are as important as each other in fashion retail? Or do we have a growing consumer that recognises the disparity between the two points and are happy with this segmentation.

Contemplate these emporiums of large space promoting the chic glamour of posh fashion – throw away fashion, encouraging more consumption, branding globally, scale, and push.

What will happen to this younger generation when they find themselves older, with more disposable income? Will they move to the other end of the spectrum?

These should be questions fashion retailers are asking of themselves and their customers and then be innovating and trialling new concepts and ideas. Because this re-wired generation of fashion-savvy young will be on the hunt for the next step up, with more fashion knowledge, more spending power and greater ‘posh’ ambitions than ever before.

Our next Fit for Business breakfast, featuring Myer CEO, Bernie Brookes, will be held on June 17 and 18 in Sydney and Melbourne. For more information, visit

Tickets selling fast – look forward to seeing you there.

Happy fit retailing!

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